Unfortunately, when Stephanopoulos said, "full disclosure, I worked for President Clinton from 1991 through 1996," that was not a full full disclosure. If Stephanopoulos had really offered full disclosure, he would have told ABC viewers that he was working with Clinton the day before the interview aired, when he served as moderator for a panel discussion on interfaith dialogue for Clinton's Global Initiative. He wasn't alone. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, a regular panelist on ABC's Stephanopoulos spectacle, moderated a Friday session of Billfest.
CNN glorified Clinton at least twice. There was the obligatory Larry King interview on Friday night, with toughies like, "How did the idea for a global initiative begin?" On Saturday night, CNN devoted an hour-long special to "A Global Summit," with Clinton playing president of the World. Christiane Amanpour inquired: "What is the solution for stopping nearly a billion people around the world having to struggle on less than $1 a day?"
NBC also took advantage of two chances to puff Clinton. On Friday morning, "Today" host Matt Lauer made time for the tax-hike plug: "what sacrifices would you ask the American people to make to pay those bills?"
But the real disappointment in all of this was Tim Russert, the man usually armed with 200-word questions that include large Devil's-Advocate lumps of text designed to pin down the guest. The regular Russert viewer had to wonder if Russert had made delicate negotiations to secure the Clinton interview, with Clinton's main stipulation being "beg, and roll over."
Every Russert question was a quick sentence, and every Clinton answer seemed to go on, and on, and, endlessly, Clinton-style, on . I'm not kidding -- you could put the Larry King interview and the Tim Russert interview side by side with the names scratched out and not be able to tell the difference. Russert even ended with jokes, asking if Clinton would join the "Denis Thatcher Society" when we elected President Hillary.
The public deserves better. If Clinton's going to pull out the brass knuckles, then shouldn't the questions be tougher than the typical cotton candy? If he's so cosmically brilliant, why not throw him a mental curveball? We're not asking for thumbscrews or polygraphs or DNA tests, just a question tougher than "tell us how you're saving the world today."
The networks do not come to question him. They come to offer shoeshines, back rubs, and the telepathic message "wish you were still in charge, big guy."
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